Government rejects call for a review into assisted suicide, after strong opposition from MPs

Strong opposition from MPs has resulted in the Government rejecting calls for a review on assisted suicide despite the best efforts from large pressure groups in favour of assisted suicide.

This follows the news that an attempt to introduce assisted suicide to the Isle of Man has failed

MPs received thousands of emails from constituents ahead of the debate urging them to attend and speak in opposition to the assisted suicide lobby’s campaign.

A large turnout of MPs, including Sir Desmond Swayne, Sir John Hayes, Fiona Bruce, Dr Lisa Cameron, Andrew Selous and Martin Vickers spoke strongly against assisted suicide in the debate. 

Fiona Bruce, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said disability groups are “extremely concerned” about what has happened in other countries that have introduced assisted suicide legislation. 

She noted that in the US State of Oregon the majority of those applying for assisted suicide now cite “fear of being a burden” as their major end-of-life concern. Adding that “far fewer cite pain concerns.” 

In Canada, “under the 2016 law that has allowed terminally ill people to request assisted suicide and euthanasia, safeguards have been ignored, removed and extended to non-terminally ill people such as those with depression.”

“In July a depressed but otherwise healthy man was killed by lethal injection, despite not being terminally ill. Another man who suffers from a neurological disease actually recorded hospital staff offering him a medically assisted death, despite repeated statements that he did not want to die. 

“Only this week, on Tuesday, there was an article in The Times about three Belgian doctors on trial in relation to the euthanasia of someone reported to have a personality disorder and autism. The family believes that she was depressed but that she did not, as required by Belgian law, have a serious and incurable disorder.”

In these cases, she said: “The point to note is that, regardless of the wording of eligibility criteria in legislation, in practice safeguards are often discarded, and vulnerable and depressed people are assisted to end their lives.”

“Rather than assisting vulnerable people to commit suicide, or administering euthanasia, we should be looking to improve palliative care provision and mental health treatment… Marie Curie estimates that 25% of cancer patients do not currently get the palliative care that they need.”

Rounding off her speech, she exclaimed: “The UK is a pioneer in palliative medicine and a world leader in palliative care. Let us keep it that way!”

A large number of MPs mirrored Fiona’s call for improved mental-health and palliative care, over the introduction of an extreme assisted suicide law, in a renewed effort to assist people to live. 

Dr Lisa Cameron, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability, said: “Often, when people face debilitating illness or very difficult life events, suicide may come to their minds. Does she agree that at such times, we should provide better mental health support, psychological support and counselling to enable people to come to terms with their feelings and look much more positively towards their abilities and the contribution they make?” 

Expressing his concerns about a potential review into the law on assisted suicide, Jim Shannon argued: “The answer is not legalising assisted suicide. The answer is to help, to support and to be compassionate towards families. Does she acknowledge the good work that is done by many charities, particularly Macmillan, whose compassion and love make the unimaginable a little bit more bearable?”

His fellow DUP colleague, Ian Paisley, continued this point by saying: “We should be asking the positive, strong question: how much palliative care and support can we give people at the greatest point of need?”

He added: “We parliamentarians should be prepared to offer hope to people, not to say, as others have said, ‘You’re now a burden. It’s time to shuffle off this mortal coil.’” 

Baroness Finlay has introduced an Access to Palliative Care and Treatment of Children Bill to the House of Lords. This bill aims to highlight the necessity of speciality training for palliative care; to ensure that children, babies, and those with learning disabilities receive palliative care; and, the responsibility of Clinical Commissioning Groups to identify, fund support and provide services to those with palliative care needs.

Other concerns raised by MPs included the change it would bring in the relationship between a doctor and a patient. 

Martin Vickers MP said the relationship between a doctor and patient is one the UK should treasure. “Rather than opening the door to assisting us to die, patients—all of us—need to have confidence that our medical professionals are striving to keep us in good health and alive,” he added.

Extending this point, Sir Desmond Swayne MP noted the large number of assisted suicide deaths in the Netherlands and asked wether we are prepared to “fundamentally change the nature of the medical profession, when the clinician who brings healing is also the clinician who brings death?”

Another argument made by MPs was the valuation of life, and how legalising assisted suicide would fundamentally change how we value life as a society. Making this point was Sir John Hayes MP who said: “Although life, as I have described it, is momentary, each moment is precious. The life of profoundly disabled people is precious, and the life of those weak, wizened, sick and infirm people is precious.”

Highlighting how the valuation of life would change, Andrew Selous MP said: “We need to be very careful to ensure that old and sick people do not feel a pressure to end their lives, perhaps from their children, who might want to inherit their assets and to whom they may feel they are being a burden.”

Not a single doctors group or major disability rights organisation in the UK supports changing the law, including the British Medical Association, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Royal College of Physicians, the British Geriatric Society and the Association for Palliative Medicine.    

Parliament has consistently rejected attempts by the assisted suicide lobby to introduce assisted suicide, with 330 to 118 voting against introducing assisted suicide in 2015. 

Assisted suicide pressure groups cite a poll that shows there is widespread support for legislation of assisted suicide, yet experts have heavily criticised the polling as deeply flawed. In fact, when asked questions that drill down into the merits of the debate, the percentage of those in support drops dramatically.

Government recognises large numbers of pro-life voices during debate on proposed abortion framework in Northern Ireland

A number of pro-life MPs from across the political spectrum have expressed their dismay that Westminster is continuing with its plans to impose an extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland. 

The debate, which took place in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening, heard politicians rally in defence of unborn children, to respect devolution in Northern Ireland and to reverse Westminster’s extreme abortion regime imposed upon Northern Ireland.

Opening the debate, in place of Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith, a Minister for Northern Ireland and Conservative MP Robin Walker said: “the Government are working towards the laying of regulations for a new legal framework for the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland, as required by the 2019 Act.” 

He confirmed the new framework will be in force by 31 March 2020.

However, a number of MPs have expressed deep concern that the proposed legislation goes far beyond what the Government was required to do by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 and could lead to abortion, for any reason, up to 24 weeks.

Conservative MP Fiona Bruce said she was deeply concerned by the width and breadth of the consultation raising concerns in her mind about possible changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland going much further than anticipated.

She added: “I am deeply concerned that the abortion framework that may be proposed by the Northern Ireland Office might go far beyond those three circumstances. For example, it may allow for access to abortion on request for any reason up to 12 weeks’ gestation, and then up to 24 weeks.”

Fiona Bruce also revealed that a number of clinicians in Northern Ireland are deeply concerned about their right to ​conscientiously object to engagement in abortion treatment procedures, and may not be given the same protections they have in England and Wales.

DUP MP Jim Shannon echoed Fiona Bruce’s concerns – that the proposed changes to abortion law in Northern Ireland go further than required, quoting the expert legal opinion of David Scoffield QC which stated:

“The question posed to me is essentially whether, if the… Secretary of State… determined to do no more than necessary to comply with his strict legal obligations under the 2019 Act, the proposals set out in the consultation go beyond this… I consider it to be relatively simple to conclude that the answer to this question is ‘yes’.”

Jim Shannon then asked the Northern Ireland Office to reconsider their “radical proposals”, saying they “constitute a clear political choice on the part of the NIO to undermine devolution to a greater extent than the 2017 to 2019 Parliament required…, which would effectively lead to abortion on request for any reason between 12 or 14 weeks’ and 22 or 24 weeks’ gestation.”

Under one of the proposed options being consulted on, abortion could be available for any reason, up to birth, for babies with Down’s syndrome, cleft lip, club foot and other perceived disabilities.

Dr Lisa Cameron, who received hundreds of abusive messages and a threat of deselection for voting against imposing extreme abortion legislation in Northern Ireland, raised concerns from the Don’t Screen Us Out community, who are particularly concerned about the scope of the regulations and the impact on families with Down’s syndrome children.

“I hope that the Minister will comment on whether there has been consultation with that group [Don’t Screen Us Out], because, as I am sure the hon. Lady would agree, that would be very helpful.”

In her maiden speech in the House of Commons, DUP MP Carla Lockhart defended the right to life of unborn babies and called for the Government to respect devolution in Northern Ireland.

“I want a society in Northern Ireland that values life, and I want to see services that will help women choose life. We want to see a perinatal palliative care centre, a maternal mental health unit and better childcare services, and that is my ask of this Government. Help us create a culture of choosing life, as opposed to killing an innocent little baby that does not have the voice to say, ’No, mummy!’

“It is incomprehensible that the Government, knowing that abortion was a devolved matter, have published consultation proposals to introduce changes that go far beyond what has actually been required by Parliament.”

However, Alliance MP Stephen Farry stated he was “content” that Westminster had ignored devolution and imposed extreme legislation on Northern Ireland.

Labour MP Tony Lloyd seemed to agree with the sentiment saying: “if the Assembly were to legislate contrary to the UK Government’s establishment of a process for safe and legal abortion, our efforts would have been futile.”

Closing the debate, Robin Walker, stated how, in the previous debate on Northern Ireland, he was “getting beaten up very heavily by pro-choice colleagues on the Opposition Benches,” yet, “on this occasion, perhaps the voice was slightly louder from the pro-life people, who I am happy to meet to try to address their concerns further, to ensure that we take this forward in the best possible way and in a way that is respectful of the concerns in the community in Northern Ireland and more widely.”

UK Government brings back Domestic Abuse Bill and with it an abortion threat

The UK Government has revived plans to introduce a new bill aimed at tackling domestic abuse after the previous bill, which radical MPs planned to hijack with an extreme abortion proposal, was scuppered by the general election. 

The Domestic Abuse Bill, first introduced with cross-party support by Theresa May’s government in July, would make it easier for the courts to prosecute in cases of domestic abuse. 

It would do this by creating a statutory definition that means harm caused is not just physical or sexual, but can also involve emotional, and economic abuse, and controlling behaviour.

However, it is very likely that pro-abortion MPs will attempt to hijack this Bill again with a radical amendment to introduce extreme abortion legislation to England & Wales.

Speaking at the Second Reading of the Bill’s previous incarnation, Labour MP Diana Johnson championed an amendment to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill, that has seen Europe’s most extreme abortion legislation imposed upon the province. She also confirmed her intention to hijack the Domestic Abuse Bill with a radical amendment to introduce extreme abortion legislation to England & Wales.

All other MPs who spoke on the topic of abortion during the Second Reading were united in their criticism of Johnson and her plans to hijack the Domestic Abuse Bill, which would remove protections for unborn babies with a disability and allow sex-selective abortion.

Pro-life MP Fiona Bruce said the issue of extensive abortion reform “should not be undertaken by using Back-Bench amendments to an unrelated Bill.”

She added: “To learn our lesson on this, we need only look to the unforeseen circumstances now about to play out, sadly, in Northern Ireland later this month, with a five-month lacuna in the law on abortion there about to start because this place rushed through, with completely inadequate scrutiny, amendments to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Bill.”

Huw Merriman MP said, “it is essential that the Bill remains roughly in a shape that allows it to succeed”.

“Although I agree strongly with my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) about abortion reform, which I very much favour, I do not believe this is the right Bill to deliver that reform”, he added.

An analysis by pro-life charity Right To Life UK revealed that the number of pro-life MPs has increased while the pro-abortion lobby has lost a large number of MPs following last week’s General Election, but abortion threats such as these are still on the horizon.

In a post-election article, the charity announced it will be working hard to oppose the proposed new abortion framework in Northern Ireland, which is due to be introduced on 31 March, and will also be working to block any attempts to introduced an extreme abortion law to Great Britain.

Additionally, they said they will work closely with MPs to campaign for positive changes designed to increase protection for babies in the womb and end pregnancy discrimination for women.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“It is highly inappropriate for pro-abortion MPs to hijack the Domestic Abuse Bill in a way that not only undermines its support for victims of domestic abuse and their families but also removes current legal safeguards for unborn babies, potentially allowing abortion for any reason up.

“Ahead of the election, tens of thousands of our supporters urged MP candidates to sign the Both Lives Pledge, which outlined three policy changes designed to increase protection for babies in the womb and end pregnancy discrimination for women. Ahead of polling day over 200 candidates had signed the pledge.

“Additionally, ComRes polling from 2017 showed the majority of people want the time limit for abortion to be reduced to below 20 weeks, not increased. We hope MPs will take note that the majority of people do not want this and swiftly reject proposals that remove protections for unborn babies.”

UK General Election: Large group of pro-abortion MPs are gone, but big abortion threat still on the horizon

Following the UK General Election on Thursday, the number of pro-life MPs has increased while the pro-abortion lobby has lost a large number of MPs according to an analysis conducted by pro-life charity Right To Life UK.

Ahead of the vote, tens of thousands of the charity’s supporters urged MP candidates to sign the Both Lives Pledge, which outlined three policy changes designed to increase protection for babies in the womb and end pregnancy discrimination for women. Over 200 candidates signed the pledge ahead of polling day.

A number of prominent signatories of the Both Lives Pledge were elected. They include the former Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, Fiona Bruce, Maria Caulfield and Mary Glindon. 

Meanwhile, a number of outspoken pro-abortion MPs lost their seats including Anna Soubry, Paula Sherriff, Dennis Skinner and Chuka Umunna.

Ahead of the election, there was a major backlash against a decision by Labour and the Liberal Democrats to pledge in their manifestos to introduce an extreme abortion law to the UK. 

Both parties severely underperformed in the election on December 12. Conversely, the major parties who did not include a manifesto promise to introduce extreme abortion changes to abortion law, the Conservatives and Scottish National Party, both gained a large number of seats.

The results come after what has arguably been the worst parliament on record when it comes to life issues after MPs in Westminster voted to impose Europe’s most extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland.

However, the abortion lobby has made it clear that they will be seeking to introduce an extreme abortion proposal, possibly going as far as allowing abortion up to birth for any reason, most likely as an amendment to a new Domestic Abuse Bill.

Pro-life charity Right To Life UK has said it will be working hard to oppose the proposed new abortion framework in Northern Ireland, which is due to be introduced on March 31, and will also be working to block any attempts to introduced an extreme abortion law to Great Britain.

Additionally, the charity has said it will work closely with MPs to campaign for positive changes designed to increase protection for babies in the womb and end pregnancy discrimination for women.

In July, assisted suicide was debated in parliament for the first time since MPs voted by a huge majority, of 212, in 2015 to reject plans to introduce it to the UK.

Despite all major disability rights groups in the UK remaining opposed to any change in the law, it is likely there will be an attempt to introduce assisted suicide via a private members bill in this parliament. A significant number of MPs signed the Right To Life UK pledge to oppose assisted suicide and support better palliative care.

A spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“Our analysis of the make-up of the new parliament indicates that the number of pro-life MPs has increased while the pro-abortion lobby has lost a large number of MPs. While this is positive, the threat of the introduction of an extreme abortion law has not gone away. The Domestic Abuse Bill will be back and the abortion lobby will be back in force, ready to amend it with the aim of introducing an extreme abortion law to England and Wales.

“We are calling on people throughout constituencies in the UK to make it clear to their local MP that they are against introducing an extreme abortion law or assisted suicide to England and Wales – and instead want to see positive policies that will better protect and support women, unborn babies and the elderly.”